What's up in

physics

An apple being jostled by gravitons
gravitational waves

How the Bits of Quantum Gravity Can Buzz

July 23, 2020

New calculations show how hypothetical particles called gravitons would give rise to a special kind of noise.

An ice sheet stretching into the distance.
Abstractions blog

How Earth’s Climate Changes Naturally (and Why Things Are Different Now)

July 21, 2020

Earth’s climate has fluctuated through deep time, pushed by these 10 different causes. Here’s how each compares with modern climate change.

Side-by-side images of a rabbit, bees in a hive, and a tornado.
information theory

What Is an Individual? Biology Seeks Clues in Information Theory.

July 16, 2020

To recognize strange extraterrestrial life and solve biological mysteries on this planet, scientists are searching for an objective definition for life’s basic units.

Animated illustration of a hand emerging from a black hole, while drawing the black hole by connecting dots flashing 0 and 1.
Quantized Columns

Spotting Quantum Black Holes in the Lab

July 15, 2020

Can we test speculations about how quantum physics affects black holes and the Big Bang?

Liz MacDonald holding a banner printed with the STEVE aurora.
Q&A

The Scientist Leading the World’s Aurora Hunters

July 9, 2020

Liz MacDonald realized that if she wanted to create the world’s best aurora map, she needed a secret ingredient: Twitter.

A glass object being shaped by a blowtorch.]
Abstractions blog

Why Is Glass Rigid? Signs of Its Secret Structure Emerge.

July 7, 2020

At the molecular level, glass looks like a liquid. But an artificial neural network has picked up on hidden structure in its molecules that may explain why glass is rigid like a solid.

Magnetic fields in the universe.
cosmology

The Hidden Magnetic Universe Begins to Come Into View

July 2, 2020

Astronomers are discovering that magnetic fields permeate much of the cosmos. If these fields date back to the Big Bang, they could solve a major cosmological mystery.

Gif of a grid of arrows whose directions flip up and down.
Abstractions blog

The Cartoon Picture of Magnets That Has Transformed Science

June 24, 2020

One hundred years after it was proposed, the Ising model is used to understand everything from magnets to brains.

Katie Mack portrait.
Q&A

This Cosmologist Knows How It’s All Going to End

June 22, 2020

The astrophysicist and social media phenom Katie Mack is ready to tell you about the fate of the universe.